butcher block care?
January 28, 2009 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Proper care for a butcher block?

Got a butcher block as a gift (awesome, as I have zero counterspace) but did not receive instructions on proper care. I'm a vegetarian so meat prep/clean-up is not an issue, but the dang thing already smells like onions! I try to clean it thoroughly with soapy water every time I use it & I'm sure to dry it off (as Google instructs), but is there anything else I should know? I'm getting mixed advice on whether oiling it is appropriate, & also whether I can use a diluted vinegar solution to get the oniony smell out. I don't want the thing to split & I don't want it to be all nasty!!
posted by oh really to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
rub salt (I think sea salt) on it and lemon juice.

rinse off, let dry.

rub mineral oil on it occasionally so that it does not dry out.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 6:42 AM on January 28, 2009


Here are instructions from one of the big manufacturers. I wouldn't worry about getting the name brand oil; plain food or pharmaceutical grade mineral oil will be fine. scouring it with salt or baking soda, and perhaps letting the salt or soda sit on the block for a while will help with odors and moisture. The key is to keep it dry and well-oiled; moisture will make the block retain odors/bacteria and shorten the life of the block.
posted by TedW at 6:48 AM on January 28, 2009


I like how those instructions say not to use detergents on the butcher block but don't actually say what to use to sanitize it. Metal scrapers do not sanitize!

I have a butcher block countertop from Ikea, and its instructions say to sand lightly and then use mineral oil every few months, applying 2 or 3 coats while letting the oil soak in between. When I wash the countertop I have been using dishwasher detergent.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 7:48 AM on January 28, 2009


This website seems to have good instructions. It agrees that dishwashing liquid is a mild cleaner and works, but also suggests that a solution of bleach is a good thing to use as well. I should probably consider that for times like when I'm cutting meat on there.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 7:54 AM on January 28, 2009


I've used mild dishwasher detergent for years without a problem; I wouldn't worry about suggestions not to use detergents. Just rinse well.
posted by beagle at 7:57 AM on January 28, 2009


wood is usually anti-microbial (at least to a point) so "sanitizing" is kinda moot.
posted by fancyoats at 7:57 AM on January 28, 2009


wood is usually anti-microbial (at least to a point) so "sanitizing" is kinda moot.
posted by fancyoats at 7:57 AM on January 28


NO. THIS IS WRONG. IF YOU DO NOT SANITIZE A WOOD CHOPPING BOARD OR BUTCHER BLOCK AFTER CUTTING RAW MEAT YOU WILL ONE DAY WAKE UP IN A WORLD OF PAIN.

SORRY FOR THE ALL CAPS AND BOLD BUT HOLY MOTHER OF FUCK THAT ANSWER IS WRONG AS ALL HELL

posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:16 AM on January 28, 2009


Optimus, Here is another point of view. I clean my wood cutting board carefully, but there is evidence that wood is quite safe.
posted by theora55 at 8:33 AM on January 28, 2009


This sounds like a question for our intrepid asavage!

However, it seems clear that sanitizing is a good idea.
posted by Jupiter Jones at 8:56 AM on January 28, 2009


One downside to a non-drying* oil like mineral oil is that your butcher block will forever be seeping oil into whatever you put on it. We have a butcher block we bought about 15 years ago (and which I haven't oiled in at least 10 years), and any paper we put on it gets oily after awhile.

Instead, I'd recommend a natural drying oil finish, such as polymerized tung oil or varnish oil (a mix of polymerized linseed oil and pine sap). Tried & True is one brand of natural finish that I've used successfully--I ordered mine from Lee Valley.

BEWARE: do not use the linseed or tung oil finishes from the big box stores! They use toxic heavy metal compounds (Japan drier) to cause them to polymerize and are not food-safe. For a food prep surface, you must use a naturally heat-treated drying oil, not a chemically treated wood finish.

If you can't source a natural polymerized tung oil or linseed oil, you can use walnut oil from the fancy oil section of your grocery store. The finish isn't as durable as tung or linseed oil, but it will polymerize and is obviously food-safe.

One other caution: drying oils are slightly exothermic as they cure, and if you leave a pile of linseed or tung oil-soaked rags lying around, they can spontaneously combust. Dispose carefully.

*Oil finishes come in 2 types: drying and non drying. Non-drying oils do not react with oxygen and remain liquid; they soak in and they will also seep back out. Drying oils react with oxygen to polymerize and create a water-resistant, inert finish. Linseed oil (made from flax) is one such oil, and was the original base for oil-based paints.
posted by fogovonslack at 9:23 AM on January 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I recommend oiling it, as the wood can get dry over time and crack. I wash mine with dish liquid, and it has not accumulated any odors from food.

Grapeseed oil is a great choice for oiling the block, as it doesn't go "off", or rancid, as other oils can. Plus it serves the double purpose of also being delicious to cook with.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 9:24 AM on January 28, 2009


One downside to a non-drying* oil like mineral oil is that your butcher block will forever be seeping oil into whatever you put on it.

This has not been our experience with the butcher block we have. It gets oiled every few month, but there is no continuous seepage (for the first day or two after oiling, yes, but thereafter, no). It gets wiped down with a damp soapy cloth in between oilings.
posted by rtha at 9:27 AM on January 28, 2009


Second on the periodic wipe with a polymerizing oil. Personally, I think you can PROBABLY use the brand from the big box but read the label. The can of linseed oil I have in the basement contains cobalt and zircon, but I think I'd have to spend a couple hours licking my workbench to get the USRDA of cobalt and OSHA's zircon limits are pretty liberal. Check the MSDS on your particular product, though.

I'd be more concerned about getting unpolymerized linseed oil on my food. It smells pretty nasty and I can't imagine it tasting any better. You definitely want to let it set a few days between oiling and usage. That might be the strongest argument for the walnut oil.

And what was said about the oily rags. Rags with linseed oil on them are the oily rags that gave oily rags a bad name. I usually take mine out to the BBQ grill and cut to the chase by setting it on fire myself.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:29 AM on January 28, 2009


Just got a call back from the Clean Strip people. Their linseed oil contains no driers. It's just boiled oil.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:51 AM on January 28, 2009


Optimus, Here is another point of view. I clean my wood cutting board carefully, but there is evidence that wood is quite safe.
posted by theora55 at 8:33 AM on January 28


That link still supports my all-caps all-bold rant - wood is as safe as anything else, sure, but nothing is safe with respect to food preparation unless it has been properly cleaned. Anyone who separates a chicken on a butcher block and fails to sanitize it properly will eventually get sick. And real, honest-to-goodness food poisoning is brutal.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:36 PM on January 28, 2009


I don't chop onions or garlic on my butcher block counter - for that I use a separate cutting board. No matter how much I scrub at the butcher block afterwards, it will always impart an oniony flavor to the next food cut there, which stinks if it's something like strawberries.
posted by Addlepated at 2:29 PM on January 28, 2009


the op is a vegetarian, so the question of raw meat is irrelevant to his or her situation. i didn't say "don't clean the thing"
posted by fancyoats at 4:26 PM on January 28, 2009


« Older Can i collect unemployment if my job only offers...   |   Obtaining Marijuana in Michigan Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.